Celebrating freedom in a war zone

Celebrating freedom in a war zone
Vidhi Upadhyay, New Delhi, Mar 21 (PTI) How does one feel celebrating Independence day surrounded by army personnel, fears of a attack weighing heavily on one's mind?

"Jashn e Azadi- How we celebrate freedom", a 138 minute documentary by Sanjay Kak opens with a scene of a typical Independence day celebration in Srinagar.

Army men gather at Lal Chowk, armed men guard them and among spectators are again military personnel and a few journalists. Next scene shows a graveyard where a father is trying to locate his son's grave. Without any sign of emotion crossing his face and voice, he says, "It's been so many years now, how does one remember."

"I want to tell the world that what is life like when there are 700,000 soldiers around you, what one feels like when one constantly lives in a war zone, may be one of the most militarized war zones in the entire world", says Sanjay.

A young man who has got accustomed to burying bodies in the last ten years of his life, a woman in a hospital who suffers from psychological disorders as she imagines seeing blood, and a tourism industry trying hard to come as a green leaf in the otherwise paradise-turned-paralyzed state. Through these and many more scenes of grief, death, blood and a tourism sector trying to sustain under the protection of army, the director wants to convey a point.

Kak's documentary, which he had been making since 2003, was screened in the capital recently.

The sensitive nature of the issue was visible when some members of the audience, during the post-screening discussion said they were not happy with the film, it doesn't show what the Kashmiri migrants, mainly pandits, suffered during all these years. To some, it came as a one sided portrayal of the situation.

Rashneek Kher, a Kashmiri pandit said, "The movie was very biased, I agree to the pain and suffering of Kashmiris living there, but that is no reason, how can you show just one side of the picture?

However Kak, himself a Kashmiri pandit, is quick to respond to the accusation. "Kashmiri pandits are not there in my film because they are not there in Kashmir, I didn't want to drag them out of the refugee camps into my film. In fact the film is about how the word freedom has many meanings".

Twice in the documentary the director uses the 12th century historian, Kalhan's quote, "Kashmir can be conquered by spiritual merit but never by the force of soldiers".

As if suggesting the need for a reconditioned perspective, there is a scene towards the end of the film where a motivation expert is addressing students, army men, and other people in Srinagar and is talking about change.

"People feel they resist changes, in actual they don't, they resist losses due to changes, or they resist changes due to their past conditionings", says the motivation expert Davis.

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